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A player is challenged

To successfully challenge for the ball, your players need to scan their environment before, during and after the tackle. This helps them to win possession – and decide what to do next. Let's take a closer look.  

Before the tackle 

Ask your players if they can:  

  • notice where they are on the pitch in relation to the goal  
  • spot the path of the ball 
  • see the movement of the attackers and the space they want to use.  

Posing these questions will encourage players to survey their surroundings.  

Next, to help players use their scanning skills to anticipate in-game problems, get them to consider the following scenarios:  

  • What if your teammate loses the ball? 
  • What if your teammate gets beaten by an opponent? 
  • What do you do when two or more attackers are running at you?  

 

During the tackle

Whether a player is observing their opponent before making a move or ready to challenge, they must consider what could happen next. There could be extra danger lurking or even a chance for them to win the ball and create an attack. With this in mind, always encourage your players to "have a quick glance" before they make their next move.   

 

After the tackle  

Following a challenge, can your players spot a chance to counter or their opponent's next attack? To help them do this, provide transitions in practices and reward individuals when they demonstrate the action of challenging.  

 

When challenging for the ball, the ultimate aim is to win it cleanly. That's why timing is crucial. Go in too early, and the opponent could play around you. Too late, and the opportunity to win the ball passes by – or you might give a foul away.  

To work on timing, ensure your practices provide opposition, offer repeated tackling opportunities and replicate what happens in a real game. Doing this will give players plenty of chance to try challenging. It'll also make it easier for them to transfer their learning into a match.  

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Finally, when challenging, players must demonstrate a good variety of techniques. This can range from adapting to block a shot on goal, positioning themselves to intercept or using different parts of the foot to challenge cleanly and keep possession of the ball.  

It can also be the ability to get between the opponent and the ball – dipping a shoulder to create space.  

Mastering these techniques will increase the likelihood of winning the ball. To work on them with your team, set up small-sided duels. Then, to increase the possibilities, add goals or target areas. This gives players the chance to experience blocking shots and challenging for the ball.  

  

Putting it together